puzzle

The diagonals in crossword puzzles usually don’t have meaning. This puzzle’s did.

“I am looking for help creating a personalized crossword puzzle that I will then get published to propose to my partner.”

I have been making crossword puzzles since the early ‘90s, but I had never gotten a request like that. At first I was surprised to be asked to do such a charming task. It’s an honor to be asked to participate in a wedding. It’s a mystery to be asked by someone you don’t know. But to be asked by a total stranger to create a proposal crossword … well, that’s a mysterious honor.

Still, I went into a brief period of indignation at the rest of the world of husbands and wives. Last year, 2,126,126 people in the United States got married. Why didn’t any of them ask me to make a puzzle for them?! I can’t win! It’s like having over 2 million lottery tickets and not getting a single hit!

But I quickly laid that drama aside. I am a hopeless romantic, so I began to focus on this romance of hope. How could I say no to the woman who asked me to do such a noble task?

Yes, you heard me correctly. The person who asked for the proposal crossword is a woman. I know that sounds a bit out of the ordinary. I guess even in these modern times, it’s usually the guy who gets on one knee and asks the gal to tie the knot. But in this case, it would have to be a woman who does the proposing, no matter who does it.

Because … she was asking her girlfriend to marry her.

I’m a live-and-let-live kind of guy, so I have never had a problem with same-sex marriage. Of all the things in the world that you could make a fuss about, why berate someone for who they love? So I was flattered to be asked to help a woman ask a woman to marry her. I know that here in the Bible Belt this would enrage many of the people I grew up with ... but that’s just a happy accident.

So, the proposer and I got to work and planned how the question would be popped. You probably know that the answers in a crossword are either across or down; the diagonal rows in a grid are usually just random letters. But not this time.


This grid had 14 circles running down a diagonal of the grid, upper left corner to lower right. The circles would contain the 14 letters that would change the lives of two people: WILL YOU MARRY ME. The title of the puzzle would be “Circular Thinking.”

We collaborated a lot as I filled the grid, and then wrote the clues. And finally, it was done. I sent the crossword to the proposer and I waited ... and I waited ... and I waited.

Not a word. I emailed her several times. Not a word. Finally I emailed the editor that had put the proposer in touch with me. What happened? I haven’t heard anything for a couple of months and I was afraid her partner might have said no!

“I was worried about that too. I’ll see what I can find out,” my editor friend told me. But karma was good to me. Even as I read the email (which she had sent hours earlier), another email popped up on my screen, saying: Sorry I forgot to tell you, everything is fine, we’re getting married!

Sometimes I get antsy with people when they forget to let me know what’s going on. But surely, I can let this one slide. After all, she’s busy, she’s getting ready to marry her girlfriend!

I wish I could be there, but this wedding is taking place many states from here and old people are at risk when they travel these days. But hey, wouldn’t it be grand to attend, just to be able to say that I heard the words at the climactic moment that I have never heard before at a wedding:

“I now pronounce you wife and wife.”

Harvey Estes is a nationally published puzzle master whose Pitt County Crossroads alternates with his column in The Daily Reflector every other week. He lives in Pitt County north of Greenville.